Complex brain surgery was performed in Ancient Greece

Hyperaxion Apr 9, 2020

According to a study, the cause for the intervention was an infection that may have killed the person during or shortly after the procedure. For the authors, the patient was an important figure at the time.

A research by Adelphi University in the United States revealed a complex brain surgery performed in Ancient Greece. Scientists analyzed fossils from a group of archers from the Roman Empire found on the Greek island of Thasos.

Complex brain surgery performed in Ancient Greece
The red arrow points to a hole in the archer’s infection process. The other arrows point to the dimensions of the surgical preparation. (Credit: Adelphi University).

The experts studied ten skeletons – four women and six men – who were probably of high social status at the time. Their bones indicate they practiced physical activity, suffered trauma and that one of the men had brain surgery.

“According to the skeleto-anatomic features of the individuals, both men and women lived physically demanding lives,” said Anagnostis Agelarakis, a professor of anthropology in the Adelphi Department of History. “The very serious trauma cases sustained by both males and females had been treated surgically or orthopedically by a very experienced physician/surgeon with great training in trauma care. We believe it to have been a military physician.”

Modern day Thasos.
Modern day Thasos. (Credit: Balate Dorin / Adobe stock).

As for the brain surgery, Agelarakis believes that the man was considered an important person, because the surgery appears to have been complex.

Based on this information, the team obtained medical and paleopathological data on the surgery, concluding that the man was submitted to the procedure due to an infection. In addition, the group found that the archer died shortly after or during the intervention. “The surgical operation is the most complex I have ever seen in my 40 years of working with anthropological materials,” said Agelarakis.

The results of the study are described in a new book, Eastern Roman Mounted Archers and Extraordinary Medico-Surgical Interventions at Paliokastro in Thasos Island during the ProtoByzantine Period: The Historical and Medical History Records and the Archaeo-Anthropological Evidence.


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